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lege, in the University of Oxford; and his father dying in 1761, he entered the world at the age of eighteen, master of himself and his fortune. This might have proved a dangerous shoal for so young a man; but henceforth Mr Banks was only sensible to the enjoyments attached to the labours of the mind, and the only use he made of his liberty was to devote himself exclusively to them.
About this period, Natural History began to raise itself from the low condition in which the more advanced sciences had kept it. The eloquent pictures of Buffon, and the ingenious classifications of Linnæus, afforded numerous attractions to the mind. In the steps of these celebrated men, there were seen to open paths alike new and full of interest; and it was in exploring these paths that a young man would naturally engage, who devoted himself to science only for the sake of gratifying his inclination. Mr Banks, therefore, at an early period, engaged in the examination of the productions of nature, and especially those of the vegetable kingdom. His taste for plants soon changed into a passion, and he made all the sacrifices to their investigation that it required. The first of these, as every body knows, is to travel much on foot; and this sacrifice is more disagreeable than any other in a country where this mode of travelling is so little in use, that it might of itself render a man liable to be suspected. Our young botanist was in fact more than once taken for a thief; and one day that he had fallen asleep from fatigue at a distance from the highway, he was violently seized by officers of police, and carried bound before a Magistrate, who was much amused with the adventure.
However, his ardour for study did not make him forget to take care of his affairs. From this time, also, he began to reflect, that the way in which he could be enabled to serve society with most ease, was to put himself in a condition for serving it, without demanding assistance from it. The most considerable part of his property was situated at Revesby, in Lincolnshire, upɔn the borders of that vast extent of marshy meadows which surrounds Boston Bay, the nature of which, in its characters, bears so close a resemblance to the province of Holland, that a portion of it has obtained the same name. He spent a part of the
year in this country. Here he perfected the art of digging canals and raising dikes, so important for the improvement of land like this; he peopled the pools and small lakes of this fenny country, and sometimes amused himself with fishing. It is even said that it was in this exercise that he contracted a friendship with John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, who afterwards became First Lord of the Admiralty, and who saw his name immorta lized by the surprising advances in physical geography that took place during the time of his administration.
If this anecdote be true, it presents an additional example of the great effects that may result from a trivial cause; for it cannot be doubted that Mr Banks's influence contributed powerfully to multiply these discoveries. If he did not require to ex: cite the Earl of Sandwich to expeditions which the will of the King sufficiently recommended to him, it is not the less true that he more than once pointed out to him the places to which it would be most advantageous to direct them, and acquainted him with the surest means of rendering them successful.
The example of this minister besides, became at length a sort of rule, and the numerous successors which he had in this elevated post, all thought themselves honoured by consulting the man whose advice had proved so beneficial.
Mr Banks, however, did not wait until he had acquired this degree of credit, to carry his views into execution. In 1766, one of his friends being captain of the vessel that was destined to protect the Newfoundland Fishery, he profited by the opportunity thus afforded of visiting that country. This was not indeed directing his first course toward the most attractive coast, but he soon had an opportunity of compensating for it.
The peace of 1763 came to restore tranquillity to Europe, and to open the seas again. The nations sought to repair, by new enterprises, the evils which their dissensions had caused. England especially, victorious in both hemispheres, and seeing unlimited careers present themselves on all sides to her fortune, shewed an energy, which, directed by an ambitious chief, might have proved highly injurious to humanity. Fortunately, at this period, a sceptre which was almost that of the ocean, passed into the hands of a young Monarch, pure in his morals, simple in his tastes, and who had early learned that useful discoveries
might reflect as much lustre upon a reign as conquests. He was the first among princes who formed the idea of visiting new countries without carrying terror into them, and of making known his power only by his benefits. Whenever the historian records an example like this, it is his duty to shew it in all its beauty. It especially belongs to the historian of science, in fulfilling this duty, to raise himself above the wretched rivalships of nations and although the nation which has merited this homage has been so often and so long at war with France, it is undoubtedly not before an assembly such as ours that I need apologise for having rendered it.
George III. was therefore eager, upon his coming to the throne, to send some vessels to the South Sea, with general instructions for extending geographical knowledge. Commodore Byron had been sent there in 1764. Two other officers, Captain Wallis and Captain Carteret, were sent out in 1766; they had not yet returned, when a fourth expedition was fitted out, under the command of James Cook, who, by this voyage, and the two others which he performed, contributed more to extend the knowledge of the globe, than any navigator who had preceded him for two centuries.
His voyage had in view at once the interests of geography and of astronomy; for Cook's principal commission was to observe the passage of Venus over the Sun's disc, which, having already taken place in 1761, was to occur again in 1769.
Mr Banks resolved to make it also contribute to the advantage of Natural History, and requested for this purpose to participate in its dangers, and devote to it a part of his fortune. He spared nothing to ensure its success, in as far as regarded himself; he provided at his own expence a great store of objects that might be useful to the people he was about to visit ; he got all the apparatus necessary for physical observations, and the preservation of natural objects, placed in the vessel; he engaged a distinguished pupil of Linnæus, lately settled in England, Dr Solander, to prosecute with him the science which was the common object of their love; he took with him two painters, to make drawings of what could not be preserved; he engaged the necessary servants; in short, he provided all that might render his enterprise agreeable and successful.
We would remark here, that this period must be noted in the history of science, as that at which natural history began to extend its researches upon a large scale, by contracting an alliance with astronomy and navigation. It was also for the purpose of observing the same transit of Venus, that the Empress Catherine II. appointed the great expeditions into Siberia, under the direction of Pallas, and during which valuable collections were made by numerous naturalists. At the same time, Bougainville, by order of Louis XV., sailed round the world, taking with him Commerson, a man of boundless activity, and of almost universal knowledge. And it was truly in these three enterprises, which were nearly contemporaneous, that governments learned by what point the sciences are connected, and how the services which they confer are increased by combining their investigations.
I may be excused from relating, in detail, to the present auditory, the events of this first voyage of Captain Cook. Who is there among us that has not, from his childhood, read the account of it with a sort of delight? Who has not trembled for our travellers, when the cold threatened to chill them into a fatal sleep among the snows of Terra del Fuego? Who has not wished to live for a short time, like them, in the midst of the primitive people of Otaheite,—amid those beings so beautiful, so mild, happy in their innocence, enjoying, without disquietude, all the pleasures that are to be found under a serene sky, and upon a fertile soil? Whose heart has not palpitated for the fate of our navigators, when, having struck upon the coral rocks of New Holland, they saw the planks of their vessel come asunder, one by one; a leak opening which their pumps were unable to subdue; and when, after having no other prospect but death before them, for two days, they were suddenly saved by the expedient suggested by a man who was no mariner, of pushing, from without, bundles of wool into the gaps of the vessel ?
All the circumstances of this expedition,-the perils and pleasures of the navigators, the varied manners of the tribes among which they landed, the caresses of the new Circes of Otaheite, the combats with the cannibals of New Zealand, with the general conflagration of the grass, in which the inhabitants of New South Wales were on the point of enveloping them,-seem to realise
those amusing fables of the Odyssey, which have been the delight of so many nations and so many ages.
Now, it is incontestably to the presence of two men educated with other ideas than those of mere sailors; it is to their manner of observing and feeling, that this powerful interest is in a great measure due. Nothing was spared by them for enriching their collections, and satisfying their curiosity. Mr Banks especially, always manifested an astonishing activity; he was neither repulsed by fatigue, nor arrested by danger. He is seen at Brazil, gliding, like a smuggler, along the shore, in order to pick up some of the productions of that rich country, notwithstanding the stupid jealousy of the governor. At Otaheite, he has the patience to let himself be painted black, from head to foot, in order to be admitted to a funeral ceremony, which he could not otherwise have seen. And it is not only for seeing and observing that he displays his character: in every place, although destitute of legal authority, he seems naturally to assume the rank which in Europe would have been given him by the conventions of society. He is always foremost. He presides at the markets, and over negotiations. It is to him that both parties address themselves in any dispute. It is he who pursues the If he had not thus re
thief, and recovers the articles stolen. covered the quadrant, which had been adroitly carried off by an islander, the principal object of the enterprise, the observation of the passage of Venus over the sun's disk, would not have been accomplished. Once only he did not dare to render himself justice; but it was when the Queen Oberea, having lodged too near him, stole away all his clothes through the night; and it will be allowed, that, in such a case, it would not have been gallant to have insisted too much on his rights.
This sort of magistracy, to which he found himself raised, depended upon the circumstances, that, while his figure and countenance were formed to inspire respect, his unremitting goodness laid claim to friendship. He gave to the savages instruments of agriculture, seeds of culinary vegetables, and domestic animals; he was watchful to prevent their being maltreated, and even to such a degree as to have them treated with indulgence when the fault was upon their side. If there exist a natural pre-eminence, it is that which is the offspring of intellect and beneficence.